We have made up for lost time with Saint Patrick's Day Parade
Published 19/03/2014 | 05:20
Growing up in Dundalk during the 1970s and 1980s, St Patrick's Day was something that was celebrated and welcomed in other towns and villages around the country.
There was none of that fun and festivity to be had in Dundalk. Maybe the lack of a parade was connected with the Troubles and the town's proximity to the border or maybe it just was the presence of the Dundalk Maytime Festival parade at the end of May, but as a child you went to mass in the morning and saw the scouts and guides get presented with their shamrock.
Some years there would be a colour party from the FCA in Aiken Barracks leading the boys and girls back from St. Patrick's to their hall on the Castletown Road. That was as exciting as it got.
You used to sit and watch the Dublin parade on television, go for a spin in the car and then you would sit through the Six O'Clock News and see parades up and down the country and listen to your parents moan why couldn't Dundalk have a parade like the rest of them.
As a child the highlight of the day would be that you were allowed to break Lent and would enjoy sweets and chocolate until your mam would say 'you've had enough, you'll make yourself sick'.
Watching this year's parade as a parent it was impossible not to think how times have changed. We might have come to the party late in comparsion to the rest of the country, but we have certainly copped on and the town now must be one of the best places to celebrate St. Patrick's Day outside of the cities.
Public buildings were lit in green, the Town Hall staged a fantastic concert on St. Patrick's Eve and there was live music on a stage in front of the courthouse following the parade, with activities such as bouncy castles for young children making the town centre a real beacon for family fun.
The streets of the town were alive and full of life on Monday as the parade wound its way through the streets.
You certainly could count the spectators in the thousands and it is quite likely that those taking part also touched into the thousands as the parade took an hour to pass the review stand in Park Street. Young and old lined the streets to watch the spectacle and great credit is due to the hard working volunteers who made the day and the weekend such a success. Without those volunteers Dundalk who kicked off the town's St Patrick's Day parade a few years ago and which has gone from strength to strength since we would still be on the outside looking in as the rest of the country enjoyed our national holiday.